Three evil tyrants look over the continent of Orsterra.

Picture: Sq. Enix

Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent, newly obtainable on cell, is a worthy sequel to the unique 2018 Change role-playing sport. I had anticipated a watered-down fight system and a menu hell like many different gacha video games on cell gadgets. Sq. Enix proved me mistaken. Champions retains the visuals and music that made Octopath a novel title in a discipline of fairly RPGs, and its streamlined fight is an enormous enchancment over the grindiness of the unique sport. Octopath is even higher on cell than it ever was on the Nintendo Change.

In 2018, Sq. Enix launched the unique Octopath Traveler on the Nintendo Change. Set in the identical continent of Orsterra, Champions is a prequel, going down some unspecified time frame earlier than Octopath. Whereas the protagonists of Octopath do seem in some sidequests, the narrative is centered round a band of merry adventurers who’re united by the holy ring carried by the primary “chosen,” your first participant character (who’s randomized via the gacha). It’s an fascinating tackle the primary sport’s narrative system, the place eight characters occurred to hitch up collectively for causes that have been much more tenuous. Whereas there are sidequests centered round every of the characters, the principle marketing campaign focuses on three themes: wealth, fame, and energy. Every foremost questline revolves round toppling a tyrant who exemplifies a kind of qualities. The adventurer group also can accumulate factors in every of these qualities, which have an effect on NPC recruitment and resource-gathering.

Sofia hangs out with an architect and her cat.

Screenshot: Sq. Enix / Kotaku

Critics typically praised the primary Octopath sport’s artwork fashion, fight, and music, however some discovered the development to be grindy and the story to be uninteresting. So I used to be a little bit nervous after I discovered that Champions was a cell sport. Many gamers who’re used to premium console titles usually discover the cell grind too irritating to endure. After years of taking part in video games on cell, I’ve an unlimited quantity of persistence, however even I keep in mind feeling that Octopath Traveler was a bloated time sink. I used to be ready for Champions to exacerbate the unique drawback.

I used to be additionally involved about how properly the Octopath artwork fashion would adapt to a cell sport. The character designs are whimsical and successfully faucet into the nostalgia many gamers really feel for the 16-bit JRPGs of the ‘90s, however they aren’t precisely attractive or eye-catching. Except dancers, the characters put on pragmatic garments in earthy colours. I couldn’t see myself obsessing over fanart of Octopath characters the way in which that I did with Caenis in Destiny/Grand Order or the dragon woman Ch’en in Arknights. By the point I began Champions, I barely remembered what the Octopath Traveler characters regarded like.

These have been the issues I had earlier than truly taking part in the sport. Eight hours later, these issues largely forgotten, I noticed that Champions is my absolute favourite technique to play Octopath Traveler. The auto-travel perform, the place you flick the display screen to auto-run throughout the panorama, feels intuitive. There are buttons to stack each character’s strikes without delay, which makes abnormal battles go by so much sooner. If I solely encountered a few weak enemies, I may end the battle with two faucets.

Champions additionally introduces the idea of reserve get together members within the again who will be swapped out and in at will. If somebody acquired hit by a standing impact, I merely caught them within the again line and used the reserve get together members. Benched characters additionally get well each well being and SP (mana). Since as much as eight characters are current in each battle, it’s simpler to unfold expertise factors round to extra characters.

In each video games, fight largely revolves round concentrating on enemy weaknesses so as to break their shields. Doing so was difficult within the authentic sport. A number of enemies in the identical battle usually had completely different weaknesses (akin to Polearms, Daggers, or Hearth), and boss battles grew to become excruciating when bosses would change their weaknesses. In Champions, nevertheless, with my get together divided into two rows, I may organize my frontline to interrupt enemy shields with multi-hit fundamental assaults on the primary flip, after which use my backline of highly effective characters to pummel the enemy’s well being on the following flip. I marveled at how Champions managed to make Octopath really feel much less grindy by making very small tweaks. It didn’t need to be an overhaul, and the fight nonetheless works equally to the way it does within the Change authentic.

The Orsterran party members battles a snow fox.

Screenshot: Sq. Enix / Kotaku

However wait, there’s extra! The influence of standing results is now tremendously diminished, a savvy determination that lets Champions dispose of stock administration totally. I may get hold of equippable weapons and armor, however I now not needed to juggle restoration or standing ailment objects. I didn’t have to consider the distinction between Herb of Readability and Herb of Awakening, which was a really hellish expertise after I completed Octopath final 12 months. The NPC summons system has additionally been simplified significantly. Now not are summons tied to particular characters—now you can briefly recruit folks by combating or paying them, no matter who’s in your get together. These could be unhappy adjustments for RPG followers who take pleasure in managing their inventories or enduring the implications of standing situations, however they gave me a extra fulfilling RPG expertise.

Champions can also be devoted to the beautiful visuals, soundtracks, and tales that made Octopath Traveler so memorable within the first place. I felt so peaceable and comfortable as I traversed via the HD-2D panorama to the sound of Octopath Traveler’s energetic soundtrack. And I didn’t have to fret about character attraction—I beloved each single particular person I recruited via the gacha system. The return of Octopath’s character-focused quest system allowed me to develop connected with the characters at my very own tempo. Whereas some RPG followers would possibly really feel that Octopath characters aren’t morally grey or advanced sufficient, I like how humble, relatable, and genuinely likable the characters are. I’m used to recruiting highborn nobles, legendary warriors, and even gods in different gacha video games. And regardless that the forged consists of as much as 80 playable characters, the writing makes every of them distinctive and likable in a down-to-earth method. Moderately than the whole lot being extremely high-stakes and intense, I spent numerous time merely serving to folks feed their youngsters or determine their analysis undertaking. Characters in each video games are motivated by altruism or an inherent appreciation for worldly wonders, reasonably than revenge or spite. It was enjoyable to observe characters fret over small misunderstandings or easily-resolved human struggles. I really like JRPG melodrama about secret bloodlines or no matter, however generally I simply need to chill with individuals who have regular human foibles. Champions fulfills that area of interest completely.

The extra streamlined Champions expertise allowed me to return to my sport each time I felt prefer it, and I didn’t need to relearn a sophisticated system so as to progress. It strikes the right steadiness between approachable sufficient for individuals who have by no means performed Octopath Traveler and devoted sufficient for individuals who need Champions to be a direct follow-up.

Whereas cell gacha video games usually have a foul repute for being a money seize, it’s clear that the builders of Champions put very cautious thought into designing a turn-based RPG that feels good to play. And lots of the new fight and quest system redesigns are supposed to enhance the single-player expertise reasonably than the monetization facet. The brand new options, the way in which that the themes intersect with gameplay techniques, and the relatable characters make Champions a vastly improved single-player expertise in comparison with its predecessor.

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